Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Deery me

I’m numb, well at least my arse is. I'm sat in a tree stand about 10 ft off the ground and I'm trying not to move. I've been there for about two hours and the task is made harder by the midges biting my hands and face. Try sitting completely still for a length of time and you suddenly realise how difficult it is to do; we're constantly moving; scratching a nose, moving an arm, it all happens without conscious thought. Suddenly stopping those movements requires concentration and the longer you’re sat, the more small things begin to demand attention. 

I slowly turn my head to the left and I can see Sam slowly scanning the woods for any sign of deer. It’s a warm evening but he’s kitted out in hat, gloves and several layers and I realise that this is as much for deterring the biting insects as about keeping warm.

Sam manages the deer population in the area of woodland where I own a small piece and he kindly offered to take me out and show me what it’s all about. We've already had some of the venison from the deer in our woodland and understanding more about the animals themselves is something I'm keen to explore.

My personal feelings on deer management is that it’s an important part of protecting the diversity of the woods; it prevents overgrazing, which reduces the food available for other animals and prevents starvation in the deer population. With no other apex predators to control their numbers, deer culling is an important part of countryside management. It also provides a source of food.

I'm interested in all animals and plants and actively discourage the idea of killing anything for sport or causing unnecessary harm to animals, so it was a real opportunity to learn more about this solitary animal.

In general I feel we have become detached from the food we consume, and that we have no idea where our food comes from or the life it lead before it arrived on our plate. I've only eaten pheasant and venison in recent times that came from hunting, but it’s an area I'm keen to explore further and I want to ensure I waste nothing of the animal, so gaining knowledge from people like Sam is an important part of this development.

For those worried about the deer, rest assured they all survived another day; there was a lot of activity in the woodland before we arrived and I think that contributed to keeping them away from the area where we were. We did see two deer, one was out of season and the other came out very close to our tree and took flight before Sam could move the gun.

One of the valuable pieces of information Sam passed onto me, was that trying to creep around the wood like a ninja wouldn’t work. The animals are used to ‘normal’ human behaviour and creeping about is not ‘normal’ this causes alarm in the birds and squirrels, which in turn alerts the deer; who then stay well away. I'll be testing this out in the future as I spend more time in the woods watching the animals.

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